Mr. Hughes: I welcome the Minister's explanation of how the Government would proceed in making requests of the person carrying out the review, but may I push him one small step further? Would it be possible for the Government to consult on the brief for that person with Conservative Front Benchers, with my colleagues and me, and with others who are interested? If he could go that one step further, I might help the House by saying that I would be happy not to press our amendment.
Mr. Clarke: I can at least assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would give the person concerned copies of all the Hansards containing the various representations made not only by the hon. Gentleman and his party here and in the other place, but by the official Opposition in both Houses and by my hon. Friends. I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance, if it is a reassurance, that my right hon. Friend will take all possible steps to ensure that the review considers fully the views expressed in our debates.
Lords amendments Nos. 1, 2, 3, 17 and 107 are designed to tighten the all-important definition of terrorism in clause 1. We always said that we had not closed our minds to possible improvements in the Bill's definition of terrorism, and we believe that the amendments are useful modifications.
Lords amendment No. 1 introduces the concept of terror to the definition by requiring that for the most part actions, or threats, are caught only if, in addition to satisfying the other elements of subsection (1), they are designed either to influence the Government--that is defined in Lords amendment No. 3--or to intimidate the public, or a section of the public. The important exception, set out in proposed subsection (1B), is where firearms or explosives are involved. That is to cover, for instance, an assassination in which the terrorist's motive might be less to put the public in fear, or to influence the Government, than to "take out" the individual. Examples might include religious leaders, or scientists involved in controversial research. Although we accept that such circumstances are likely to occur rarely, we think it important for the Bill to be framed in such a way that the police are in no doubt that the special powers it provides are available to them in those circumstances.
Proposed subsection (1A)(c) makes it clear that only action that endangers the life of a person other than the person committing that action is caught by the definition of terrorism. That is intended to cover hunger strikes and similar situations.
Proposed subsection (1A)(e) specifically provides that serious interference with, or disruption of, electronic systems may be caught by the definition--provided, of course, that the action is designed to influence the Government or intimidate the public, and provided that it is taken to advance a political, religious or ideological cause. That provision was inserted to meet concerns that to "future-proof" the definition as far as possible--the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) referred to this--it was important to include computer- related terrorist action, without going for overly specific terminology that could quickly become out of date.
Lords amendments Nos. 17 and 107 are consequential on the main amendment, in that they add offences under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 to those that are "scheduled" in Northern Ireland. Lords amendment No. 2 is consequential on Lords amendment No. 1.
Let me now deal with the non-Government amendments in the group, which raise important points. First, let me emphasise a point that has already been made. The version of clause 1 proposed in Lords amendment No. 1 clearly states:
(a) the action falls within subsection (1A).
Mr. Hogg: The Minister has just assured the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) that the safe-blower would not satisfy the tests in proposed subsections (1)(b) and (1)(c). However, my understanding is that the safe-blower would not have to satisfy subsection (1)(b), but only subsection (1)(c)? Is that correct?
Proposed subsection (1B) disapplies only the point on influencing the Government and intimidating the public, not subsection (1)(c). If I was not clear in stating that earlier, I apologise to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and to the House. My point about safe-blowers is that, as far as I know, most safe-blowers are not seeking in their actions to advance a political, religious or ideological cause, and that they would therefore not be covered in that category. That is the key point. I hope that that clarifies the matter.
In amendment (b), the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey suggests specifying that the use or threat is "directed against" as well as "designed to" influence. However, I do not think that it is at all clear how "directing against" adds to the sub-issue of seeking to influence the Government. If one's action is directed against the Government, it is seeking to influence the Government. Therefore, I do not think that amendment (b) would in any sense assist in our overall debate.
Mr. Simon Hughes: The Minister may be planning to deal with this point later, but now may be the right time to deal with it, as it is related to other points that he has just made. What is his answer to the question that I asked the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington)? Why is it that if the Bill is amended only by the Lords amendments, one person with one firearm who is motivated by a religious cause and endangers a person's life in a sub-post office would not be caught by the provisions and, therefore, defined as a terrorist?
Mr. Clarke: I am always slightly hesitant to go into such examples, because it is ultimately for the courts to judge, and difficult judgments arise all the time. There have recently been cases of individuals carrying out acts motivated by values and beliefs that most people would consider terrorist. If the individual has the desire to murder one person, for whatever reason, that is different from someone with a political, religious or ideological
I appreciate the spirit in which my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington has participated in the debate, not only today but throughout our proceedings. He and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North have spoken with complete integrity and raised serious concerns felt by themselves and others throughout the country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington raised a small point about computer hacking. We have legislation on that, as the Computer Misuse Act 1990 created offences of unauthorised access to computer materials, unauthorised access with intent to commit a further offence and unauthorised modification. It is right that, when such mischief occurs for terrorist purposes, the powers in the Bill should be available to the police, but the general issue is already directly dealt with.
My hon. Friend also raised a more general point about a general strike or direct action. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde referred to Greenpeace and submarines. I have to come back to the core definitions. We understand the general issues concerning
Clearly, most direct action falls within those categories, but to fall within the scope of the Bill, such action must also fall within proposed subsection (1A), under which it must involve one of five things. The first is
Those are all pretty serious hurdles. I have made it clear throughout that we do not have any intention of seeking to apply the legislation to any domestic, industrial or environmental action, precisely because we believe that Greenpeace, for example, is not seeking to do any of those five things. I understand the spirit behind the amendment in lieu, but I honestly believe that it is based on a wrong perception of where we stand.